Terms of Endearment and Moms’ Deepest Fears. Also, Childcare Myths.

by cv harquail on March 12, 2009

Over in the Skribit feature, as a suggested topic, an anonymous person asked “How to deal with the fact that the child calls the Au Pair ‘mom’.”

Etsy TessaAnn.jpeg When I first saw this topic suggestion, I planned to ignore it. I wasn’t sure it was from a real host mom.

Honestly, how many times have you heard about this happening, with any kind of childcare provider? It’s more like a myth/fear about childcare, a myth/fear nurtured as part of western patriarchy’s plot to keep women at home in the kitchen wiping snot off the noses of toddlers, and stuff like that.

How come we never hear about kids calling their full-time mannies “Dad”? Hmm?

But, what if we take this suggested topic (somewhat) more seriously…?

I don’t think that this happens often, even in families with single dads where there is no actual Mom present. But where it does happen, obviously there is too much going on that it can’t be discussed on a blog.  At that point, you go talk to a counselor, social worker, or clergyperson. And, you talk to your parenting partner.

Okay, now let’s take this topic suggestion really seriously, in a way that we all can consider on a blog. We can ‘interrogate’ the myth/fear. When this kind of myth/fear touches us, we can ask ourselves:

  • How anguished are we at the thought of having our children cared for, in part, by someone who is not a parent?
  • How fearful are we that our children don’t have enough love to share with their paid caregivers as well as their parents?
  • How lacking in creativity are we that we can’t give our children loving ‘terms of endearment’ that capture the special relationship, the special kind of love, that can be shared between a child and a non-parent adult who cares for them?

The only way to address the myth/fear that this suggested topic touches upon is to start at the very beginning, at the initial premises upon which we became parents.

There is a category in the list of topics on this blog called “Your Host Mom Approach”. If you’ve ever clicked on that, you’d discover that there are many posts that address “Your Host Mom Approach” as part of a different topic, but also that there are no posts only about “Your Host Mom Approach”. This is because I have so much to say about what can comprise a useful and loving “Host Mom Approach” that I have no idea how to fit it into one post.

I love you all on Flickr - Photo Sharing!_1234460730712.jpeg

For the sake of this topic– might we consider:

– What kind of “Host Mom Approach” obviates this sort of concern?

– What kind of Host Mom Approach makes this topic a non-starter, a fiction, a myth, an absolutely RIDICULOUS concern?

I’ll start.

Here are two beliefs that are fundamental to my Host Mom Approach:

1. Children need to be surrounded by love, they need to be cared for in a loving way. While no one expects that a paid caregiver or a caregiver who is ‘part of the family’ for a year will always “love” the children they care for, we can ask them to treat the children in a loving way. We can choose caregivers based on their willingness and their ability to care for our kids in a loving way.

2. Children have a lot of love to give. There is no need to fear that love given to a caregiver takes away from the love available for a parent.

Remember what you told your first child when you were expecting your second? Remember telling her that, when another baby joins a family, everyone’s heart gets bigger so that there is more love to give? Well, it works the same way with kids. The more loving people they experience in their lives, the more their hearts grow.

What’s a fundamental belief of your Host Mom (or Dad) Approach?


Dawn March 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Well, I’ve actually had my kids call the AP “Mom” before — but it’s not a regular occurrence, and it’s certainly not anything that concerns me! (It’s basically the same kind of thing as when I sometimes have to run through the names of everyone in the house, including the dog, before I call my kid by the correct name — or am I the only person that happens to? LOL!)

As you indicate, I think that this issue can arise when we have any kind of caregiver caring for our children — it’s not specific to APs, although perhaps the fear of your child “preferring” someone else to you is exacerbated by the fact that the AP is living in your home and a part of your child’s “family.” There are a lot of complex feelings involved in entrusting someone else to care for your children — not the least of which is the “mommy guilt” we feel for doing so. But ultimately, as you say, I think that our children’s lives are enriched by having lots and lots of people who love them. As for the flip-side, the child loving the AP, I see that as the ultimate goal! If my children love our AP, that means that they are happy and secure in her care. I’d certainly much rather that than to have them moping around and pining away for me the whole time I’m at work!

Anonymous March 14, 2009 at 11:33 am

Oh i have heard about that alot among my au pair friends and their friends again.. it’s usually when the kid is very young and the parents work full time

Darthastewart March 18, 2009 at 7:46 am

My kids have all done that at some point or another. And at the moment my little one calls my friend mom (she babysits sometimes), the au-pair mom, and I’m mom. We joke that he has 3 mommies… The looks we get are hysterical.

Euromom October 18, 2010 at 5:23 am

It’s also worth noting that children in creches call their caregivers mom also. My sister works in a creche and she said there is not a day that goes by when one child or another (especially the little ones with limited speech) will call her mom. This is also a very regular occurrence with teachers in kindergarden.

And if you think about it I think it shows how relaxed and loved the child feels with that person when “mom” slips out. It is the ultimate compliment.

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